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Federally Funded Health Programs Face Automatic Cuts if Super Committee Fails to Agree

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Much federally funded medical research, disease prevention and public health initiatives will suffer if the congressional super committee fails to agree on a deficit-reduction package, according to a report from Kaiser Health News and the Washington Post.

While much focus is on possible cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, health advocates are pointing to many other smaller programs that are in need of protection as well.

The bipartisan panel is charged with cutting at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Failure to reach an agreement will result in automatic cuts as of 2013, half from defense and the other half from domestic spending.

Congress laid grounds for this “sequestration” scenario when it previously created the committee in August as part of raising the debt ceiling to avoid default.

“I don’t know if a lot of people have appreciated how big a hit the discretionary health programs” could take if there are automatic cuts, said Richard Deem, senior vice president of advocacy for the American Medical Association.

The full $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts would lead to funding for non-defense discretionary programs in 2013 to be reduced by 7.8 percent, dropping each year to 5.5 percent in 2021, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.

Health advocates are fearful that funding cuts will affect public health, medical research, HIV/AIDS treatment and disease prevention measures.

The committee’s deadline is Nov. 23 and Congress will then have until Dec. 23 to approve or deny the proposed cuts.

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